"Do not dwell on fear" but "let children know that grown-ups also get scared about war."
That's part of the advice in a new brochure, "When Children Ask About War," and it is just one of the many resources being created and distributed as the nation has become saturated in a new way with war news.Church officials say they have been besieged with requests for aid for parents and pastors on how to deal with children and young people asking about the war or exhibiting fears because of the conflict.
At the United Methodist Church, editors of the denomination's Sunday School curriculum rushed into production an eight-page leaflet, "Helping Children and Youth Cope With War - A Guide for Parents and Congregations."
The "When Children Ask About War" brochure is an ecumenical effort, created by the Cooperative Disaster Child Care Program, a network of people trained to reach out and comfort children in traumatic disaster situations, and administered by the Church of the Brethren.
The advice given by the pamphlets is often similar.
The "When Children Ask" resource notes that "children will reflect your emotions. When parents are stressed, children expereince stress. When parents worry, so do the children . . . And just as you as an adult need support and opportunity for expression in order to deal with the stress of frightening events, so also do your children.
"You will not have all the answers to their questions, but you can provide a calm, loving presence and a safe place to ask those frightening questions," it said.
Much of the advice relies on common sense. But war is an uncommon thing, and common sense is sometimes forgotten in times of stress.
"When Children Ask" says children under 6 tend to view the world as revolving around themselves. "Be clear with your children that your strong feelings about the war are not directed toward them."
Other advice includes parents encouraging expression of children's feelings, providing protection and comfort, being honest when they ask questions ("Counter rumors, exaggerated claims and stereotypes of the enemy with whatever truth you know") and monitoring television viewing.
Mostly, the children will need "realistic assurance of their safety and security" and the knowledge that circumstances "won't always be like this," the Methodist statement adds.
"When Children Ask About War" is available from The Cooperative Disaster Child Care Program, P.O. Box 188, New Windsor, Md. 21776. "Helping Children and Youth Cope With War" is available from Interpretive Services, Church School Publications, P.O. Box 801, Nashville, Tenn. 37202.